Saturday, August 23, 2014

They Don’t Make Things Like They Use To…Thank Goodness They Don’t - Part Two

While many complain that “they don’t make things like they use to,” I’m one person who is most grateful that that is not the case. I will not measure today’s average quality by the best of the best which survives today as examples of the supreme quality of past skills and achievements. The best of past workmanship should be measured against the best of the today's workmanship. 

On the whole the quality of today’s average products are superior to the average products made a century ago, or five decades ago, or even two decades ago. Following is a sampling list for your consideration:

  • How many of us would accept today from our primary car the gas mileage of the equivalent car made twenty years ago? Today's large cars far outperform the mileage of the thrifty cars of the 1980s, let alone the thriftiest from the 1960s.
  • Forty yeas ago, in the 1970s when a car reached 80,000 it was quickly approaching the end of its life. Rarely did a car from that era hit 100,000 miles. For today’s car is a car, a car hitting 80,000 is only entering its later mid-life state. Cars manufactured today are expected go at least 140,000 miles.
  • When was the last time you changed a tire by the side of road? When was the last time you saw someone changing a tire by the side of the road. Fifty years ago changing tires by the side of the road was a common happening. I wouldn’t exchange the average modern tires for the best tires made in the 1960s.
  • Would I accept a new television made even twenty years ago. No. I’m certainly pleased to have today’s higher quality televisions with their crisper picture and full sound than the fuzzier picture quality of the televisions from years ago which in themselves were great improvements over the televisions from the mid 70s.
  • The modern stoves certainly outperform, outlast and have more features than those made many years ago.
  • How many of us would exchange today’s refrigerator for any of the ones made in the 1980s, or the ice chest refrigerators from the 1940s? How many families would like to return to the days of the wringer washing machine? Today's new washers and dryers are more efficient and perform better than those made decades ago. 
  • Though today’s average new home may not have solid wood floors which were more common in the new homes of the 1960s and earlier, today's average new home is superior with those from the past. past, which in large measure explains why many people prefer to buy a new home. Today's new home are far more insulated and built to a higher quality than those built in the 1930s, 1950s or even in the 1970s. The windows and doors today seal out the cold/hot air far better than in the past. The wiring and plumbing are of a higher quality and the lighting more efficient. Just look at the improvements in the bathrooms. Our toilets and showers are more efficient than those of yesteryear. How many families would exchange their whirlpool/jet tubs for even the upper end tubs of the 1970s? Today’s homes are for the most part roomier are equipped with more storage.
  • Though paint still receives a tough time from the elements, the paints of today do stand up longer than those in the past.
  • I’m certainly pleased that the modern train engines do their work (an pulling far greater loads) without spewing black smoke from the coal used to fuel the great engines of the past.
  • I would certainly not swap my iPod the early Walkmans. I much prefer the compact iPod with its weeks of stored music stored to the bulkier Walkmans.
  • Today we have far more medical devices, equipment and drugs than in the past that enable people to live longer, and remain more mobile and independent than in the past. I would certainly not want to return to the quality of medicine from the past days.
  • How many of us are able to do our banking and get cash out of our accounts while thousands of miles from home? Little of what we do today could be done four decades ago without going to the local branch…and in some places your bank was limited to doing business in your state, and in some cases only in your county.  When you went on a trip, you had to use credit cards and make sure you had enough cash with you.
  • Whenever I’m sitting behind a transit bus I’m pleased it is not an old model. I never did enjoy the smell of diesel fumes.
  • I certainly don’t miss the old diesel trucks with their black exhaust trailing behind them, or the noise created by the old engines.

I hope you too are thankful that they don’t make things like they use to do so.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

They Don’t Make Things Like They Use To…Thank Goodness They Don’t - Part One

“They don’t make things like they use to” is frequently used as a putdown of modern workmanship. We have around us of homes, buildings, clocks, furniture, jewelry, etc. that are superior when compared to most modern examples  of similar items. When we gravitate to using the phrase in question, I argue that we are uncritically buying into hagiography, the over glorification of the past events/things/people.

Yes, we have examples of fine high quality design and workmanship from a hundred or more years ago that survive today as examples of the quality of their craft. But “fine high quality design and workmanship” is the operative phrase.  The fruits of this high quality workman ship survive because they were crafted with care using high quality materials, and of sufficient skill and quality to endure beyond the common products produced by their peers that haven't lasted. Today, we too have high quality design and workmanship which will continue to stand as signposts to their craftsman's skills for many generations to come.

Today’s fine craftsmanship is not common. We must remember that such high quality craftsmanship was also not common in the every past generation. Many arts of work, music, crafted furniture of past generations have not survived because they were not of superior quality to be cherished, maintained well and passed down. For each item that has survived, hundreds more, whether they be furniture, machines, art, public or private buildings or homes homes have perished because they lacked quality design and workmanship. I’ve seen many old homes that go back a to the early 1900s or earlier that are dilapidated, and which by today’s workmanship and standard are substandard.

Let’s not be premature in dismissing the quality work and labor around us today. We do have poor quality workmanship today, that cannot be denied but the same existed in the past generations since the beginning of time. Just as the common and poor quality work of the past has more or less perished, so too will most of the common and poor quality of our generation’s workmanship.  We can take comfort that our best too will join the collection of the best from the past generations we have inherited.